While most accident damage can be repaired, mouse damage can easily total your car. Over time, they can strip wiring of its insulation, rip apart interiors and leave debris in intakes. On top of that, they leave behind infectious diseases, making cleanup dangerous. Here’s what you should know about how to stop mice from getting in classic cars, what you should do if you have an infestation, and how you can clean up mouse damage safely.
How Do I Know I Have a Mouse Problem?
If you catch the signs early, you can stop an infestation before mice damage your vehicle:
- You spot a mouse nest. Nests are made of any available fibrous material, including fabric, paper, food wrappers, pillow stuffing and pieces of string. They are usually covered in mouse droppings. Mice rarely travel more than 25 feet from their nest, so expect damage nearby.
- You spot mouse droppings on the floor, or notice teeth marks on containers.
- There is an unidentifiable musty smell in the area. This may be from a hidden mouse nest.
- New holes show up in walls and ceilings, as mice create new paths to get around.
Are Home Remedies Effective?
There are many household items that get suggested for dealing with mice. However, most of these aren’t effective, and they can even encourage mice to enter your garage.
Soap and Hair: Foe, Food or Future Nest?
Mice do not hate the smell of Irish Spring soap. In fact, mice like to eat soap, especially if it’s tallow-based. If you want to get rid of an infestation, you’re better off removing soap from your garage entirely.
Likewise, they aren’t frightened by the scent of human or dog hair. If they notice the hair at all, they’ll use it as bedding.
Scent Deterrents: The Least Effective Rodent Repellent
Most household rodent remedies have one thing in common: they have a scent that is supposed to deter mice.
Like soap, vinegar, laundry detergent and dryer sheets may smell strong, but they won’t deter rodents. Coffee grounds will absorb smells from mouse droppings and nests, but they do nothing to the mice themselves.
It’s true that mice and rats hate the smell of onions, but it’s hard to use them effectively as a rodent deterrent.
Peppermint oil is effective at deterring rodents, but it fades quickly. Unless you’re willing to spray down your vehicle every week or two with peppermint extract, it won’t be effective. The strong menthol scent of Vicks Vaporub seems like it would be a suitable replacement. While Vaporub-soaked cotton balls can be used around holes, you’re better off blocking or sealing up these entrances.
Moth balls release toxic chemicals into the air that are harmful to both mice and humans. It’s not worth destroying indoor air quality to use this method. Mice hate the smell of bleach, but it’s also toxic and hard to apply in amounts that it will be effective.
Baking Soda: Effective and Inhumane
Baking soda absorbs smells like coffee grounds, and it’s an effective method at killing mice. Sprinkling baking soda around areas where mice are active forces them to walk through this powder. Mice will lick their feet to clean them off. Once the baking soda mixes with water, it releases carbon dioxide. Humans can burp when they have too much of this gas in our stomachs, but mice can’t. The CO2 causes their stomachs to expand, leading to extreme discomfort and death. Unless you’re feeling unusually cruel, you should stick to the quick deaths doled out by traditional traps to solve your infestation problem.
What can a Mouse Chew Through?
If a rodent can’t find a hole, it will make one. Mice can chew through wood, drywall, fiberglass and anything else that’s thin and soft. They also chew through plastic, but it may take a while to get through thick layers. Rock wall is a favorite target, because it makes good bedding.
Aluminum foil is not an effective mouse deterrent. While they don’t like chewing through foil, that won’t stop them from trying. However, it can be used to fill in gaps below doors temporarily. By cramming aluminum foil into these narrow spaces, it’s next to impossible for mice to bite through and get into the building.
Rodents will bite through steel and copper wool. However, the sharp edges on this wool makes the process painful, so they won’t force their way through unless they’re desperate. This makes these materials a good choice for filling holes.
Mice cannot chew through glass or thick metal. If you need to store something in your garage that attracts mice, use a container made of these materials.
Keeping Rodents from Getting Into Your Garage
If you want to keep your car safe, you need to fill in any holes that may allow entry into your garage. Spackle small holes closed, and use mouse-proof wire mesh or steel wool to fill larger holes.
Look for holes from physical damage, cable entry or poor sealing doors and windows. If you make changes to utility services that require new lines or pipes, you need to fill in any old holes. Holes that are in use can get bigger over time, allowing mice to enter the building. You should also check for holes where the roof and walls meet, as well as any holes left by gutter brackets. Vents for dryers and HVAC systems are also easy for rodents to access.
Don’t forget the giant hole in the front of your garage. If you leave the door open, there’s nothing to stop mice from running in. Likewise, they have no trouble climbing up high to get through open windows.
Next, remove anything that mice may want to eat. Trash, soap, pet food and human food should either be moved out of the garage, or placed in metal or glass containers. Eliminate sources of bedding where you can. Paper towels, tissues, books and loose insulation are all possible targets.
How to Stop Mice from Getting in Classic Cars
Sealing your garage helps reduce infestations, but it’s not fool-proof. Taking steps to protect your vehicle directly can save it from costly damage.
Blocking off holes in the firewall around the pedal shafts and steering column will help keep mice from getting into the cabin. Cover the engine intake with wire mesh to keep mice from using the air filter housing as a nesting spot.
When you work on the wiring on your car, install rodent resistant electrical tape and cable housings. Rodent tape is treated with capsaicin, the chemical that makes foods spicy. While cayenne pepper has the same effect, it quickly loses its potency when exposed to air.
Just as you can use traps to kill or capture mice in your garage, you can also place them around your car to stop mice before they damage your vehicle. Place traps on top of wheels, in front of intakes and on frame rails.
If you’re getting ready to sound deaden your car, consider upgrading to closed cell foam. Not only does it offer better performance than carpet lining and jute, mice aren’t likely to use it as bedding.
If you have an infestation, you need to stop it as soon as possible. It takes about three weeks for mice to give birth, and newborn mice can breed shortly after they’re born. This means leaving a couple rodents alive can result in a new infestation in less than a month.
Most traps that kill mice are effective, if they’re used correctly. Mice come in different sizes, so you either need to have traps in different sizes, or devices designed to work on a range of rodents. A spring bar mouse trap with jaws will handle most mice and rats.
Mice may be able to chew through plastic humane traps while they’re waiting for release. For these traps to be effective, you need to empty them frequently.
If you have a cat or young children, look for cat-safe and child-safe traps. Unlike snap traps, spring mechanisms are hidden or eliminated entirely. Some traps use terminals that shock mice when they bite into the bait. This type of trap is almost impossible to trigger with an errant paw or finger.
Rodents aren’t into cheese like cartoons suggest, but they love peanut butter, pet food and nuts. These are all great options for bait.
Mice like to travel through narrow, poorly-lit spaces, and they can get anywhere their heads will fit. Some breeds can fit through spaces the size of a dime. Areas behind workbenches, shop fridges and other small passages are the best locations for your traps.
How Do I Know the Mice are Gone?
Look for obvious clues. If there are no new nests, droppings, noises or chewing damage, you have probably solved your infestation problem. You may also notice your garage smells better, now that urine and droppings aren’t collecting in the area.
Talc, flour or baby powder can be used to track mice. Just sprinkle a little on the floor in areas where there is mouse activity, and they should leave footprints as they pass. Even if the infestation has ended, it’s a good idea to set up traps in problem areas to stop any incoming mice.
Cleaning Out Mouse Damage
Mouse damage isn’t just destructive, it’s also dangerous. Rodents can carry several diseases, including hantavirus. This disease can be transferred to the lungs from bedding, urine and feces, making any area with a rodent infestation a biohazard area. In severe cases, infections can lead to major cardiovascular problems and kidney failure.
Care must be taken to protect your lungs and skin when cleaning a mouse-damaged vehicle. Rubber gloves, sealed safety goggles, full coverage clothing and a respirator are a must. It’s also worth picking up a biohazard suit from your local home improvement store, both for your own protection, and for easier cleanup.
Since the materials left from the damage carry disease, they should be handled in a way that limits exposure. Vacuums and pressure washers should never be used. Use paper towels to wipe off surfaces, then dispose of them immediately. Don’t touch anything with your bare hands until all surfaces have been disinfected.
Before you clean, open the doors, trunk and hood, and let the car air out for at least 20 minutes. This reduces the concentration of bacteria and virus particles in the air. Disconnect the battery. While cleaning, you may push together wires that have been stripped of their insulators, which can cause a short.
Look under the hood for nests. The most common spots for nests in the engine bay are under the battery tray, in the air box, in the engine valley and next to the cowl. When you move onto the interior, check the glove box. This is a favorite place for mice to set up nests. If mice reach the rear of the vehicle, they will usually pack bedding around the spare tire and the sides of the trunk.
Once you’ve cleared out all the physical debris, wipe down all surfaces with your disinfectant. Throw away your towels and safety equipment as soon as you’re done using them.
Does My Insurance Cover Damage from Mice?
In most cases, no. Insurance companies consider mouse damage to be a matter of negligence. However, there are a couple circumstances where you may be covered.
Comprehensive car coverage, homeowner insurance and property insurance policies may or may not include pest damage. Talk to your insurance agent. If pest damage isn’t covered, it can usually be added for an additional fee.
Car insurance that includes pest damage will always cover your vehicle, while other types of insurance policies may or may not cover it, depending on the vehicle’s location during the incident. A homeowner insurance claim is more likely to be accepted if you can prove the mouse damage happened in your building.
Damage caused indirectly by rodent damage may be covered. For example, your auto insurance policy won’t cover replacement of damaged wires, but they may cover your car if it catches on fire due to shorts caused by these wires.
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